Friday, May 27, 2011

27 May 2011

Hi there! A few days ago, Sally and I sprinkled some of Tank's ashes on Nola's grave. About one-half cup, fyi. I sprinkled them at the headstone/grass boundary. So, if you visit, say howdy to Tank, too.

Yesterday, it was four months.

When my siblings and I visited Tank in November, when he had the brain biopsy, he was not always lucid (but he was always adorable). He sometimes became confused about time frames. Once, I was alone with him, and he said the following. (I wrote it down immediately, so I wouldn't forget. I'm copying it from my journal now.)

"I was with Nola the other day, and we were down by the docks. The dock was wooden, which is unusual nowadays. We were in a car. Your mom looked beautiful, in a dress, and a hat, but only one glove. Suddenly, I couldn't find her, and I looked around for her, but she was gone. Where could she have gone, I wondered. I opened the trunk of the car, and there she was. She got out, still with just the one glove on, and--suddenly--she jumped into the water! Right off the edge of the pier! But she can't swim! She never learned to swim! So I jumped in after her, and I tried to save her, but I couldn't. I just couldn't get to her, to save her. I couldn't reach her. Finally, I climbed out of the water, and I drove home without her. I wandered around the apartment--remember that little apartment where we lived in San Pedro?--but she wasn't there. I couldn't find her. She was gone."

On a happier note... A couple of months ago, my great-nephew E spent the night, and I suggested he fetch a stack of books from my study for bedtime reading. Among others, he brought the Dr. Seuss classic "Did I Ever Tell You How Lucky You Are?" Tank sent it when my son was born, almost 27 years ago. Inside, Tank wrote, "...To have a Mom like Polly. Her Dad." There's also a small drawing of a tank, of course. I said to E, "Did you choose this book because you knew it would make me happy?" "No!" he said, with a sweet smile. "I just chose it at random!" I smiled, too, 'cause I'd never heard him use that figure of speech before. I read it, and the others, and he wasn't sleeping yet, so I suggested he fetch more. "Why don't you read this one again," he said, picking up the Dr. Seuss book. "Okay," I said. He cuddled up next to me and said, "This time I chose it because I knew it would make you happy." Without question, some people are muchly much-much more unlucky than me.

When Tank visited my family in Dallas in about 2000, he was feeling pretty good. He and his wife had been living separately, but were meeting up in Dallas and traveling back to California together. He'd lost some weight, and had a lot of energy, and you know how it is: When you love yourself, loving others (madly, passionately, comprehensively, incandescently) is the easiest thing in the world. We were hanging out at home, and Tank suggested that he cook a meal for us. My husband poured wine for himself and for Tank, and that little gesture seemed to set the stage for the meal prep. The rest of us perched on bar stools while Tank whipped up something delightful with eggs, feta cheese, and barely cooked spinach. His gestures were broad, his laugh filled the large room, and he seemed completely relaxed and confident in that kitchen, pausing occasionally for a sip of red wine, and to hold us in his affectionate and openhearted gaze.

I've been talking with my sisters about the differences between Tank's death and Nola's death. For me, Nola's death felt like standing in the ocean, water to my waist, facing the shoreline, and being knocked over by a huge and unexpected wave. Suddenly, I'm in deep water, completely disoriented, my lungs filling. Then, darkness. When I regain consciousness, I'm lying in wet sand, and seaweed is tangled in my hair. I stumble to my feet, and eventually resume my young-adult life.

Tank's death also felt like standing in the ocean with water to my waist, but with my back to the shoreline. I see the huge wave as it approaches. Again and again, it seems to advance and retreat. Then, suddenly, it hits, knocking the wind out of me. I topple, tasting the briny water. Eventually, the sea calms, but I remain there in the surf, unable or unwilling to leave. I can look away from the ocean and see the white sand, the ice plant, the paved road...but I sit cross-legged in the warm water, awaiting his return.

With apologies to Joan, I'm glad that Robert Parker died before Tank did. I couldn't stand a conversation with one of my siblings that included the words, "Tank would have loved this book. He would have sent copies to all of us. A decade from now, he'd still be snatching up copies at used bookstores." It reminds me of the last line in "Catcher in the Rye" about "missing everybody." We told Tank things, and he told us things, and the agony of "missing" is fueled by every conversation we had, every laugh we shared, every letter we exchanged. "Tank would love this," I often think, and sometimes say aloud. (I also know that Sally would love a necklace made of peace signs and butterflies and daisies all strung together in a cheerful fashion, and that Kelly has the latest Jason Isbell CD and would share a lyric or two if I called him right now, and that Peggy is shopping for shoes as I type--maybe something a little Kardashian'd, but not too Kardashian'd.) Love and pain are as solidly linked as rice and beans, as jeans and T-shirts, as Laugh and Lots.

A couple of months ago, we divided Tank's stuff. I was fascinated by what he kept and what he didn't keep. I'll post a list later. Take care! Polly.

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